All systems go for Encore Boston Harbor launch

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With potential casino expansion and the legalization of sports betting on hold in Connecticut, new gaming competition for Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun continues to advance in neighboring states.

On Wednesday, Massachusetts gaming regulators granted conditional approvals enabling Encore Boston Harbor, Wynn Resorts’ $2.6 billion resort casino in Everett, to open as scheduled June 23 — a week from this coming Sunday. Earlier this week, New York state’s gaming commission approved regulations that will allow wagering on professional sports as soon as this summer at four upstate casinos, including Resorts World Catskills in Sullivan County.

Connecticut’s legislature adjourned last week without acting on a sports-betting bill or a last-minute deal involving the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes and a Bridgeport casino plan. Some gaming legislation still could be considered in a special legislative session, if one is called.

In Massachusetts, meanwhile, Encore Boston Harbor, “the largest private, single-phase development in the history of the Commonwealth,” appears unstoppable.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission announced Tuesday that it had completed inspections of Encore Boston Harbor’s 3,158 slot machines, 143 table games and 88 poker tables. During Wednesday’s commission meeting in Boston, commission members approved final construction and transportation plans for the resort, whose opening is set to come less than a year after MGM Springfield, the Bay State’s first full-scale casino, debuted.

“As Encore Boston Harbor gets ready to open to the public, the MGC is focused on ensuring that our policies and procedures protect the integrity of the gaming industry and safeguards fair play for patrons,” Cathy Judd-Stein, the commission chairwoman, said in a statement.

The conditional approvals issued Wednesday will allow Encore to operate three “test nights” next week to iron out any kinks prior to the June 23 grand opening. Proceeds will be donated to charity.

Wynn Resorts filed reports with the commission showing that the project provided jobs for 7,354 workers during construction. Once open, the resort will employ about 5,800 people, about 1,400 more than originally projected. Encore’s 671 hotel rooms range in size from 600 square feet to its largest suite, a two-story, 5,550-square-foot residence offering views of Boston Harbor and the city's skyline. Encore also has 15 restaurants and bars, a 26,000-square-foot spa, retail and meeting spaces.

Before building, Wynn spent $68 million cleaning up the Encore site, formerly the home of a Monsanto Chemical Co. plant. It removed 840,000 tons of contaminated soil and spent another $14 million to develop and landscape a 6-acre park along the Mystic River in Everett.

Robert DeSalvio, Encore’s president, described Encore’s “multi-modal” transportation system, designed to bring customers to the resort via water taxi, bus, free shuttles from public-transportation stops and Everett neighborhoods and via rideshare services.

In New York, the approval of sports betting applies to the Rivers Casino and Resort in Schenectady, Tioga Downs in the Southern Tier and Del Lago Resort and Casino in the Finger Lakes region as well as to Resorts World Catskills, which intends to convert an existing bar into a sports-betting lounge.

New York became the 14th state to legalize some form of sports betting — 13 of them since a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing states to enact sports-betting legislation. Rhode Island is so far the only New England state to take advantage of the ruling.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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